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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Brothers in Black by Jamie Wall

There are an astounding number of brothers playing top-level rugby in New Zealand. While the All Blacks have had a brilliant run of brothers in the past decade - with the Barretts, Whitelocks, Saveas and Franks. But the history of brother teammates includes many other standouts - like the Meads, Whettons, Gears, and Brownlies.

There were brothers on the Invincibles tour, as well as on the field when we first won the World Cup in 1987 and 2011. This book proves through, that there have been brothers on the field at nearly every major milestone of the team.

Freelance sports writer Jamie Wall dives into New Zealand's rugby history to reveal fascinating stories about brotherhood and our national sport.

The concept of 'brotherhood' is something that develops in any team sport. As Wall says, we think we're 'brothers' for team-building; we play better because we're playing for each other.

But for literal brothers, Wall explores what it is like to step out onto the field alongside each other.

Wall charts the history of brothers from the very beginning of the All Blacks name, starting with William and Edward Millton, All Blacks number seven and 16 in 1884.

The groundbreaking tour of England and Wales in 1888 is also included. Back then the 'New Zealand Natives' team included five Warbrick brothers and three Wynyard brothers.

Wall is clearly a passionate rugby ran, and has done impressive research for the book.

He highlights a rare feat - the only brothers to have played for both rugby codes - the All Blacks and the Kiwis. John and George Spencer get an honorable mention.

The book progresses through the years - ticking off household names like Zinzan and Robin Brooke, Colin and Stan Meads, and Beauden, Scott and Jordie Barrett - as well as some of the lesser known names.

Never fear though, while the book is male-heavy, Wall hasn't forgotten the sisters; and there is a lot of them. Xavier Rush and sister Annaleah Rush both wore the black jersey representing New Zealand on the same field on the same day in 1998. Niall Williams and her brother Sonny Bill Williams both represented New Zealand at the 2016 Olympic Games, while Luke and Kayla McAlister have also both worn the silver fern.

Photographs of the players help you put a face to the name, while also providing a nice history lesson into the development of the uniform.

Throughout the book, Wall not only documents the relationships between the brothers, but provides a nice overview and analysis of the games and era.

The book serves as a wonderful history of New Zealand's rugby with plenty of facts and figures - even the biggest All Black fan will discover something new reading this impressive timeline.

Reviewer: Rebekah Fraser

Allen & Unwin, RRP $36.99


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